Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Arthur (09/27/59)

The titular Arthur addresses the camera while stroking his c**k.  Oh come, it’s a chicken!  He is quite proud of his New Zealand chicken farm which he operates solo, and the fact that he got away with a murder.  In fact, he chokes his chicken — oh, grow up! — right on camera, committing another murder most fowl.  “Yes, that’s right,” he says a little too chipperly, “I am a murderer.” [1]

We cut to Arthur taking a roast chicken out of the oven, but I don’t think that was the corpus delishti he was talking about.  Even after making this gourmet dinner for one, his tie is still tight and his white apron is neat, form-fitting, and spotless.  I get more stains than that making reservations.  I thought he was done addressing the audience, but this guy won’t shut up.  He continues jabbering as he carves the bird.  He goes on about his fiancee Helen to the point where I’m begging for a flashback.  Oh . . . .

Helen drops by one evening and tells Arthur that she can’t marry him.  She is going to marry gambler Stanley Brathwaite.  She is not happy cooped up on the chicken farm with Arthur — ha, get it?  Cooped up?  She wants to travel the world with Stanley.  She says she only agreed to marry Arthur because she wasn’t sure anything better would come along.  Oh sh*t!  Did she not watch Fargo (Season 1)?

“Well, that’s the end of these shoes.”

A year after that carnage, a couple of government workers stop by.  Fortunately it is the Police and not the Health Department.  He proudly shows Sgt. Theron his high-tech gadgets which enable him to murder so many chickens single-handedly.  For instance that feed grinder, which is big enough to put a woman into.  He tells Theron he’ll meet him at the pub for chess and goes into the farmhouse.  Helen is there.

She has come crawling back from Stanley.  This being 1959, she doesn’t move in, but she does take over.  She cooks meals, but leaves the dishes stacked up.  She fills the ashtrays with butts.  Arthur likes being on his own and tells her so.  She is so upset that she knocks a coffee pot over on the carpet.  He asks her if she would be miserable if he threw her out.  Having never seen AHP, she says, “I’d rather be dead.”  He strangles her and she makes the same hilarious sound as the chicken — I mean, literally the same sound clip.   Well-played!

Three weeks later, Sgt Theron drops by again.  Seems Helen is missing.  Theron and an Inspector take a look around, but don’t find anything.  They leave, but have an officer keeping an eye on the place.

For reasons I can’t figure out, Arthur strategically decides to disappear for three days.  As he leaves, he tells us he wants them to believe he is making Crippen’s mistake. [2]  Arthur hides out in a cave for three days, then returns home.  A cave would seem to be the last place this fastidious, anal-retentive twerp would hang out.  It is also strange that they serve up this blatant resurrection reference but do nothing with it.

Arthur returns to find the police tearing up his farm looking for Helen.  They even try to dupe him by saying they found a body in the barn.  While I fully support tricking murderers into confessions, this is a stupidly specific way to do it.

Yada, yada, after the police fail to implicate Arthur, he sends Theron a nice chicken dinner to show there are no hard feelings.  Theron also raises chickens and asks Arthur what feed mixture produced these fabulous birds.  Arthur gives him all the ingredients except one.

Less than the sum of its mixed parts.  You better like Laurence Harvey because you’re going to get a lot of him.  I liked the farm which was probably just a backdrop after the first building.  However, it worked because it was well-crafted and also seemed like just the kind of perfectly clean operation Arthur would run.  The scenes inside the coop are great, although probably not so great for the chickens.  On the other hand, the scene we see is probably practically free-range compared to the industrial torture chambers chickens live in now.

Post-Post:

  • [1] The sound the chicken makes as Arthur snaps its neck is laughably human.
  • [2] The story at the link is pretty interesting; but I don’t know who would have ever gotten that reference before Google was invented.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  Tragically, no survivors in this cast of thousands.
  • AHP is getting pretty edgy — after the indirect incest of Touché, this episode features indirect cannibalism.
  • The lead character is named Arthur Williams.  The story is credited to Arthur Williams.  The title of the episode is Arthur.  Get over yourself!
  • Alternate title:  The Murders in the Perdue Morgue.
  • Strangely, Hulu calls this episode 37 of Season 4, but IMDb calls it episode 1 of Season 5.  The opening theme has a new arrangement.  The change, like all change, is for the worse.

Science Fiction Theatre – The Lost Heartbeat (08/13/55)

Dr. Richard Marshall gets a strange 2 AM visit from Dr. John Crane.  He has just read an article Marshall published and wants to discuss it. Marshall begins telling him about replacing an aorta in an orangutan. Crane decides they need to move the discussion to Marshall’s lab.

Crane:  “You’re still not a true scientist, Richard.”

Marshall introduces Crane to Alice the Orangutan.  He says, “Alice is 16 years old.  Her heart was worn out — a typical case of old age.”  It’s easy to take cheap shots at writers who did not have access to Google or even Ask Jeeves, but the life expectancy of an Orangutan is 35-40 years in the wild and in the 50s in captivity where they can ride bicycles with helmets.  So cut the writer some slack and use the time to marvel at how far Dr. Zaius got in life at such a young age.

Alice was the subject of the transplant Marshall performed.  Crane criticizes him for his half-red-orangutan-assed accomplishment.  He says Marshall should try implanting an entire mechanical heart.  Marshall asks, even if such a procedure is possible, what energy source could keep it running?  Crane’s interest is self-serving as he shows Marshall an X-Ray that indicates he has about 6 months to live.

Like every aged scientist on SFT, Dr. Crane has a hot daughter — the sole redeeming feature of this series. Are these guys all killing their wives like AHP?  Joan Crane comes up to Marshall’s lab.  She asks that Marshall get the old man to take it easy.  Within seconds, Dr. Crane arrives and she is hustled out the back exit.  Crane wants him to place an artificial heart in his chest, but Marshall says it is too risky.

Crane:  You’re not a scientist!  You’re a coward!”

Crane doubles his efforts to improve the artificial heart.  Somehow this requires Alice to flap her arms like a bird, but I ain’t no doctor.  As he is finishing up with Alice, a mysterious package arrives containing a clock.  It has lights, but no electrical plug, no wind-up mechanism, and is completely sealed, so maybe it is from the Apple Store. Three days later, Marshall notices the clock is still working.  Curious about what is fueling it, he takes an X-Ray.  He discovers a solar battery powered by the rays of the sun.  But one o’ them solar batteries what doesn’t need to be exposed to the sun, I guess.

Only one person could have sent it — he goes to see Dr. Crane.  He says to Marshall, “I knew sooner or later your scientific curiosity would bring you here.”  That’s a pretty cavalier use of time for a guy who was given six months to live.  Crane wants him to use the battery to fuel the artificial heart, but there are still many hurdles.

Marshall tells Crane his heart can only be stopped for 45 seconds without damage.  The operation must take place in that time-frame.  So far, he has the procedure down to 59 seconds and the billing down to six hours. While further researching, Crane has a heart attack. Fortuitously, Marshall is far enough along on his research that he can’t do any harm.  They slice that fat bastard up.

Marshall is able to install the artificial heart in exactly 45 seconds.  Crane’s heart begins beating again.  Marshall goes out to tell Joan her father could last a few hours or a year. The end.  Really, that’s it.

That’s all we get for our seems-like 2 hours?  A non-committal maybe it worked?  Well it is up to SFT’s standards, which is to say dreadful.  Crane is just a nasty curmudgeon hardly worth the effort to keep alive.  Marshall is one of those actors so old timey that he seems to have a British accent.  Joan is beautiful, but is given nothing to do. Literally, her big scene is interrupting Marshal when he is trying to trim seconds off the procedure.

Just a waste of time, and I’m only 17/39ths through the season.

Post-Post:

  • Title Analysis:  No idea what they were going for.

Outer Limits – Bodies of Evidence (06/20/97)

Captain William Clark is being court-martialed for abandoning ship.  The brass don’t believe his wild Outer Limits style story.  They think he stayed in space too long and went crazy.  And, oh yeah, as an aside, he is accused of killing his crew.

We flashback 3 weeks to the UNAS Meridian space station because they couldn’t allow this to be an American mission.  C’mon, I expect American producers to hate America, but this was made in Canada!

One of their experiments is to cure Space Psychosis which prohibits long stays in space.  Clark has already been in space 18 months and has nothing to go back to.  The psychosis seems to set in early on crewman Gordon, though.  As he is inspecting an air duct, he sees his son.  The “kid” runs into the airlock and Gordon follows him.  There is a tight shot of a gloved hand hitting a button that says SEAL AIRLOCK.  The hatch slams shut.  The hand hits the DEPRESSURIZE AIRLOCK button.  Gordon is blown out into space while the “kid” — whatever it is — is apparently immune to the laws of physics. The outer hatch closes again and the “kid” gives a gap-toothed smile at the dead Gordon.[1]

Crewman Somerset believes he sees his wife in the lab.  She shows her boobs and hands him a bottle of wine which he chugs.  He then sees it is actually acid.  There is another tight shot of a hand pressing an alarm button.  Captain Clark finds him dead, foaming at the mouth.

After the laptop fad has passed, we will use chest-tops.

Crewmember Laura is not as fortunate as she is visited by Gerard Depardieu[2] (who, at least, has bigger boobs).  Well, it is some disgusting, greasy-haired Frenchie.  He pulls a knife on her. She fires a pistol which causes an explosion thus illustrating why women pistols should not be allowed on spaceships.

William Clark grabs Dr. Helene Dufour and they abandon ship.  At Clark’s trial, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence.  The lab explosion could have been caused by a pistol like the one Clark carried; and Laura also carried.  The Black Box plays a recording of Gordon talking to Billy in the airlock, as in Billy Clark.  But Gordon’s son’s name was also Billy.  They also have a clip of Somerset calling his visitor Captain; but that  was before he saw who it actually was.

Against the advice of his attorney who happens to be his ex-wife, Clark takes the stand. He has a flashdance flashback to Jennifer Beals appearing on the Meridian as his wife. Unlike the others, he questions her being there immediately and shoots her.

The court rules that the crew went crazy from a gas-leak and each committed suicide.  They relieve Clark of his command and send him to the asylum.  Blah, blah, blah.  Dufour reveals to Clark that she is actually the alien who has morphed into Dufour’s hot, hot body.  There is just absolutely no reason for her to do this.  Sure, he tries to warn everyone, but they have already ruled him insane.  Even for the story, there is just no reason for her to tell him.

Why do movies insist on making screens translucent in the future? You can see the judges right through it.

That’s not the real problem though — there is just a lethargy to the episode.  The murders are expedited 1-2-3 pretty efficiently. This gets us to the trial pretty early.  I would have preferred a little more time aboard the Meridian.  It seems like a lot of money was spent on sets, design, and weightless effects, but they are mostly gone after less than 10 minutes. I guess they made up the budget on the back end.  The trial scene seems to have been filmed in someone’s dark workshed.  Apart from one entirely impractical translucent video screen, it is just wooden chairs and a table.  Maybe it would have worked better to have more flashbacks in the beautiful well-lit space-station interspersed throughout the dark trial.

Outer Limits is never going to fall below a certain level, but this one tested me.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Not to nitpick, but whose hand was hitting the airlock button?  The alien was imitating the kid.  Gordon was not wearing gloves and would not have blasted himself out the airlock anyway.  If this was a deliberate ruse to make Clark look guilty, for shame, Outer Limits, for shame.
  • [2] There is a later suggestion he is a Russian.  Don’t know, don’t care.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Invitation to an Accident (06/21/59)

Just a quick aside.  Or since this is the beginning, maybe it is an atop. Rather than being here, you should be watching Fargo.

It took me a while to find it, but holy crap!  Season 2 is merely great so far.  Season 1 was an absolute freakin’ masterpiece.  They’ve been making TV & movies for a hundred years.  Why can they only crack the code about .5% of the time?  Is there no learning curve in Hollywood?  Anyhoo . . .

Tuxedoed buttinsky Albert Martin tells Mrs. Bedsole that her niece-in-law Virgilia [1] is out in the garden among the vidalias, azaleas, and bougainvilleas with a man who is not her husband.  Even worse, it is Virgilia’s ex-husband Cam. She asks Albert to check on them.  He finds them fooling around in the bushes.

On the way home, Virgilia’s husband Joseph asks her where she disappeared to.  She says she was just visiting with old friends.  He says that is fine and even insists they have one of them over for dinner.  She says she will invite “a very old admirer.”  Once again, we have an AHP marriage which makes no sense.  While Virgilia is beautiful and vivacious, Joseph comes off as a sad sack.  He knows his wife is cheating on him, but is so needy he wants to be friends with the other man.  The scene in the car is shot so that, not only is Virgilia driving, she towers above her husband.  Why would she have left Cam, inventor of the Condo Fee, to marry Joseph?  Maybe Joseph invented the Assessment.

She invites Albert over for dinner. There seems to be some point to Albert asking for a sherry, but I’m not sure what it is.  Joseph McFlys away to find a bottle.  After dinner, Virgilia takes Albert out to see some metal chairs Joseph made.  She says she thinks Albert prefers to have a woman on his arm rather than in his arms.  Hmmmm, I think I see where they were going with that Sherry thing.

As they are going back inside, some scaffolding falls on Virgilia.  If this were a play, the audience would applaud.  Albert examines the frayed rope.  Joseph conjectures the wind must have cause the pulley to wear away the fibers.

The next day, Albert is finishing 20 push-ups.  He says to himself, “I’m out of condition. I got no wind.”  If he is doing push-ups so fast that he can get winded, I’d say he’s in extraordinary shape.  That reminds him — there was no wind when the scaffold fell. Why would Joseph cite the wind as the cause of the frayed rope?  Well, it might not have been windy at the second it fell, but it was heard clanging against the house earlier in the evening.

Pajamaed buttinsky Albert calls Virgilia to check on her.  She is OK, but bedridden.  He asks if she has had any other “accidents”.  No.  End of brutally expository scene.

One evening, Albert goes back to their house.  Joseph is napping and Virgilia has been delayed, so he goes to Joseph’s workshop to look for evidence that Joseph is trying to kill his wife.  He finds rope like that used on the scaffolding.  After only a few strokes with a metal rod, he manages to cut into the rope.  The demonstration actually makes Joseph’s story more credible; although he is buying some cheap-ass rope.

Then he notices a can of arsenic is missing from the spot he saw it on the night of the accident.  Necktied buttinsky Albert goes to Mrs. Bedsole and tells her Joseph is going to murder Virgilia.  They agree he can’t go to the police, but he will let Joseph know he is watching him.
He returns to Joseph & Virgilia’s house.  Joseph is just getting over a case of ptomaine.  His doctor prescribed fresh air, so he invites Albert to go fishing with him in Mexico.

They grill up some fish and make some coffee over a camp fire on the beach.  They begin discussing murder.  Fishinghatted buttinsky Albert begins a story about “a man I knew who intended to commit a murder”.

He continues that the murder did not occur because “a third person who was a friend of both the intended murderer and his victim intervened.”  This third person caused the murderer to weigh the consequences against the small satisfaction of killing his wife.

Joseph says it is very similar to a situation he knows of.  The husband knew his wife was cheating on him.  He says the man was kind of a slob but did love his wife.  “The fellow set out to protect his property.”  Wait, his what?  “The way he did it was simple.  He encouraged his wife to bring friends to the house.”  Then he saw them fooling around in the garden.

Albert is increasingly uncomfortable at the story which is clearly about him and Virgilia.  He realizes the scaffolding was meant for him.  Joseph says the man had another plan — to take the wife’s friend camping.  In a lonely spot, they made coffee in a tin can because the man had forgotten the coffee pot.  Both men got arsenic poisoning, but the man had built up a tolerance.  The other man died, but he got well.

Albert blurts out, “”But it wasn’t me!  It was Cam!”

“Cam!” Joseph cries in horror.

All the pieces are here.  It is a well-constructed piece with nice misdirection and great twist.  Joseph’s apparent tolerance of his wife’s fooling around just irritates me.

I was also distracted by the resemblances of both male leads to other actors.  Gary Merrill (Joseph) reminded me very much of Humphrey Bogart.  Sometimes it was the PTSD’d Capt. Queeg, sometimes it was Fred C. Dobbs, and sometimes it was his hot decades-younger blonde wife, [2] but the specter was always there.  Alan Hewitt (Albert) was a dead ringer for James Gregory in both looks and voice.

Post-Post:

  • AHP Deathwatch:  Cam was present in the episode more in spirit than he was in person.  Now as the only survivor, he is the only one who is a person and not a spirit.
  • AHP Proximity Alert:  Lillian O’Malley (Flora the Maid) was just in an episode two weeks ago — give someone else a chance!  There she played “Housekeeper”.  In the very first AHP episode, she played “Hotel Maid.”  Whatever happened to Pat Hitchcock?  This used to be her beat.
  • [1] Virgilia was the wife of Coriolanus in Shakespeare’s play.  Heh, heh . . . anus. Virgilia was like June Cleaver, though, so the name doesn’t really carry any meaning here.
  • [2] Lauren Bacall has the honor of being ID # nm0000002 at IMDb.  Fred Astaire is # nm0000001.
  • For a more in-depth look at the episode and its source material, head over to bare*bonez ezine.  Where the heck do they find this stuff?

Outer Limits – The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson (06/06/97)

The Revelations of ‘Becka Paulson is based on a story by Stephen King that appeared in Rolling Stone.  I am unable to determine whether they printed it as fiction.

We start out with the titular ‘Becka Paulson unpacking her Christmas decorations.  She even takes time to kiss baby Jesus from the nativity scene.  Oh great, Stephen King is going to lecture us on how crazy Christians are again.

In one of the boxes, she finds her husband’s pistol which, like all gun owners, he keeps loaded and unsecured in the closet.  Oh great, Stephen King is going to lecture us on how terrible guns are again.

She stares down the barrel of the gun.  When she loses her balance, she falls and shoots herself right in the forehead.  Oh great, Stephen King is going to lecture us on . . . what, having a spotter?  Oh, who the hell knows with that guy anymore.  Although, that is a good safety tip.  Cheers for having her apply the smallest band-aid in the official Band-Aid brand box to her head-wound. Jeers for it being flesh-colored.

She feels well-enough to go right back to watching her “stories” which, to be honest, don’t require a full noggin.  She might have done some real damage as the dude in a picture frame on top of the TV winks at her.  Strangely, though, he does it after she turns away, implying it is a real phenomenon.
She microwaves two Swanson Hungry-Rube Dinners and starts eating before her husband Joe gets home from his job as a mailman.  He is only mildly miffed as he wolfs down the meal and reclines in his La-Z-Boy to check out the “Sports for Sports” Swimsuit Edition like a Horn-E-Boy.  Becka is bored with her husband and her life as he doesn’t care about the Christmas decorations, isn’t much for conversation, and gives her a pretty listless rogering in bed.  She even turns picture-frame model guy down so he doesn’t have to see this.

The next morning, looking in the mirror, she peels off the Band-Aid to reveal the bloody hole in her skull.  It is indeed cringe-worthy as she decides the proper course of action is to slowly insert a pencil a few inches into the hole rather than, say, go to a doctor. This triggers a series of flashbacks, but she is able to pull it back out with little harm.

She puts a tiny fresh Band-Aid on the wound, because you can’t be too careful.  Her husband, who still thinks it’s just a bump, suggests she go to Doc Fink.  She replies that he is a veterinarian, but he says he only charges $9 for a visit.  This new comedic tone is the most alien thing I’ve seen yet on The Outer Limits.  While not as dour as The Hitchhiker, Outer Limits has always been pretty humor-free.  This episode has an unprecedented fun weirdness to it.  It is only partially due to the script.  Catherine O’Hara and John Diehl give performances that sell it perfectly.  She had years of comedy experience on SCTV, and he learned to be a straight man on Miami Vice by not laughing at Don Johnson’s wardrobe.

After Joe leaves for work, she sits down to watch her stories.  She hears the picture-frame guy (credited as 8 x 10 Man [2]) start speaking to her.  She says, “Pictures don’t talk” . . . to the guy sitting on top of the TV.  Well, granted, they don’t usually tell you your husband is having an affair.  After she gets a call from her dead father, she takes Joe’s advice and goes to see Doc Fink.

In another good comic performance, Fink checks out her wound.  Being a vet, he doesn’t really do much for her, but at least doesn’t give her a cone to wear around her head.  There is some fun dialogue and I got a laugh out of the occupational hazard scratches on his head that are never mentioned.

After some weirdness at the store, she returns home to her stories.  Today’s episode is about surgery on a woman who was shot in the head.  Somehow, Doc Fink is in the scene.  The TV-woman survived the shot because the bullet excised a tumor that was already there.  It also increased her intelligence, creativity and sex drive.

Sure enough, Becka discovers the Pythagorean Theorem [1] just weeks before Amy Schumer.  She invents The Roomba just days before Amy Schumer.  Then she drags Joe to bed for a wild ride, just before . . . I don’t even want to think about that one.

Yada yada, some other stuff happens and we come to a cheerfully dark end.  This was just a shock, like if out of nowhere the next episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents were a musical.  They tried something different and they pulled it off masterfully.

Post-Post:

  • [1] I was disappointed that she mispronounced hypotenuse.  Joe got it right, so I think it was just a mistake.
  • [2] Or maybe she was saying “ate by tinman”.
  • There is something unseemly about director Steven Weber casting himself as the 8 x 10 model.  The man in the frame was Jesus in the short story, so I guess he did show some restraint.
  • Some bits of King’s short story were used in The Tommyknockers.